Skip to content
Fine Art Asset Management

The Resilient Art Market: Exploring the Surge in Art Collector Wealth

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the way art is valued and traded, making it a relatively safe store of worth in turbulent financial times. It’s surprising for many that in moments where inflation affects every area of the global economy, the art market keeps being a high-demand area where art collectors become wealthier day by day. So, why have art and art collectors not been dampened by high inflation? Keep reading to discover.

Art and inflation over time

Art has historically proven to be a good investment, even so, that it outperformed gold during extreme inflation in the 1970s to 1980s. Then again, after the largest recession in 2020, the global art market recovered strongly with aggregate sales reaching $65.1 billion. This only shows that unlike stocks, bonds, and other traditional asset classes that can be affected by market fluctuations, art retains its value over time. Perhaps this is because the value of the art market is determined based on aggregate sales of fine art by dealers and auction houses. Not to mention that value in many art pieces is largely based on sentiment and not so much on the intrinsic worth of the asset such as real estate and cryptocurrency.

Art collectors and their soaring wealth

Art collectors who have invested in high-quality pieces have seen significant returns on their investments in recent years. An important factor contributing to the increasing wealth of art collectors is the growing interest in art as an asset class. As more people have become interested in investing in art, the market has become more competitive, driving up prices even further. This comes down to the fact that higher art prices and higher sales volume signify a stronger art market.

Another element helping art collectors become wealthier is the rise of art investment funds. These funds allow investors to pool their money together to buy high-quality art pieces, which are then held for some time before being sold for a profit. Take, for example, Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, which was sold for $450.5 million at a Christie’s auction in New York in 2016. This only demonstrates the incredible prices art collectors and patrons are willing to pay for pieces they believe will retain their value over time.

Investing in art

So far, the art market has not been dampened by high inflation. And even though the exact correlation between inflation and the art market is debatable, art prices have historically increased during periods of high inflation. In 2022 there were numerous contemporary art auction records broken, as well as auction houses that reported high sell-through rates at auction. This is so because art tends to hold its value as well as generate moderate returns, which is what makes it a good investment long term. There are many benefits to investing in art and if purchased wisely, there is little risk of losing your acquisition. Take into consideration also that art can act as an inflation and currency devaluation hedge in almost any environment. Lending artwork to events, exhibitions, or conferences can bring additional revenue, and not to mention favorable tax treatment can often be received.

Key insights of the ‘Survey of Global Collecting’

In 2023, Art Basel and UBS collaborated on their tenth global survey, providing insights into the activities and perspectives of high-net-worth (HNW) art collectors. The survey, spanning 11 markets and encompassing responses from 2,828 collectors, sheds light on HNW collectors’ attitudes, behaviors, and outlook for the art market. The results indicate that while economic factors, such as higher interest rates, may influence demand for art, self-focused motivations and personal pleasure remain key drivers for art acquisition followed by financial, social, and networking motivations for collecting and being part of the art market.

Trade statistics in 2022 and early 2023 revealed a flourishing exchange of art and antiques globally. Imports and exports reached unprecedented levels, with art imports hitting $30.7 billion and exports at $33.4 billion in 2022. Notably, despite a decline in global imports across industries in the first quarter of 2023, the art market’s value continued to grow in key hubs, including Hong Kong, the UK, and the US. The data suggests a robust and resilient art market amid broader economic fluctuations, highlighting sustained interest and investment in the industry. The median expenditure on art and antiques in the first half of 2023 was reported at $65,000, indicating a potentially substantial rise for the year if spending continues.

Art Basel’s successful return to Miami Beach

With a successful 2023 edition, the show rounded out the year with ambitious presentations, strong sales across market segments, and exceptional exhibitions and events with private collections, leading museums, and cultural partners throughout the city. Art Basel Miami Beach once again proved to be the pre-eminent art fair in the Americas. The show’s impact on the region keeps being undeniable as marked by the attendance of leading art patrons, private, local, and international collectors from over 92 countries. Not to mention that galleries reported robust sales across all market segments, including works by 20th-century luminaries such as René Magritte, Alice Neel, and Mildred Thompson; prominent contemporary artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Barbara Kruger, and Rashid Johnson; outstanding practitioners from Latin America and the Caribbean including Esaí Alfredo, Firelei Báez, Hélio Melo and more.

The rise of inflation, the popularity of art investment funds, and the growing interest in art as an asset class are all contributing factors that are making art collectors become wealthier than ever before. It’s fair to note that while the art market has the potential to be volatile, those who invest wisely in high-quality pieces can see significant returns on their investments. As expressed by Noah Horowitz, CEO of Art Basel, looking ahead the majority of collectors remain optimistic about the art market’s performance, reflecting the resilient demand for art in the largest global markets. This only reinforces the fact that the art market’s ability to weather economic fluctuations underscores its role as a stable and lucrative avenue for long-term investments.